chapter
28 Pages

SPECTRAL EVIDENCE, NON-SPECTRAL \VITCHCRAFT, AND COXFESSION AT IN 1692*

ACTS OF

The Salem witchcraft episode of 1692 was a baroque manifestation, with a multitude of contorted configurations and florid descriptions that defy any standard, comprehensive retelling. After three hundred years, it still reflects a turbulence in society that is difficult to tame into normal channels of rational discourse. The subject matter itself carries an esoteric aura that feeds popular fantasy, and impedes scientific efforts to unravel the data of what happened, when, and how. There is an emotional content in the original documents that is difficult to recapture in rational descriptive discourse. Partly because of these esoteric and emotive elements, the fads of Salem scholarship have often perpetuated misunderstandings that have told us more about the predilections of the period in which they were produced than they have about the original event.